Shimaore شِمَوُوْرِيْ
Native toMayotte, Madagascar
Native speakers
152,000 (2012)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3swb
ELPMaore Comorian
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Maore Comorian, or Shimaore (French Mahorais), is one of the two indigenous languages spoken in the French-ruled Comorian islands of Mayotte; Shimaore being a dialect of the Comorian language, while ShiBushi is an unrelated Malayo-Polynesian language originally from Madagascar. Historically, Shimaore- and ShiBushi-speaking villages on Mayotte have been clearly identified, but Shimaore tends to be the de facto indigenous lingua franca in everyday life, because of the larger Shimaore-speaking population. Only Shimaore is represented on the local television news program by Mayotte La Première. The 2002 census references 80,140 speakers of Shimaore in Mayotte itself, to which one would have to add people living outside the island, mostly in metropolitan France. There are also 20,000 speakers of Comorian in Madagascar, of which 3,000 are Shimaore speakers.

The same 2002 census indicates that 37,840 persons responded as knowing how to read or write Shimaore. However this number has to be taken with caution, since it was a few years after this census was taken that a standard writing system was introduced.

From a sociolinguistic perspective, French tends to be regarded by many Shimaore speakers as the language of higher education and prestige, and there is a temptation by native Mahorans to provide an all-French education to their children. This puts a lot of pressure on Shimaore and the language may become endangered in the near future if nothing is done.[citation needed]

Although French remains the official language in Mayotte, Shimaore will probably be taught in Mahoran schools starting in the next few years,[when?] and a pilot project began in fall 2004. As in many parts of France where local languages are introduced in the school system, this has led to tensions between partisans of a French-centered education system and administrations, versus those promoting a more diversified approach.[citation needed] Shimaore's position in this regard is however different from other French regions (such as Brittany), since the language is locally spoken by a majority of the population. The project in Mayotte has been inspired by similar projects involving Swahili in eastern Africa countries.

Mayotte is a geographically small territory, but frequent exchanges between villages only began in the last quarter of the twentieth century. As of 2004, linguistic differences between the east and west part of the island, and between the main city of Mamoudzou and the remote villages, are still noticeable, especially when it comes to phonological differences. One typical example is the word u-la (to eat), notably pronounced this way in the city due to the influence of a brand of yogurt bearing the same name, but pronounced u-dja in other parts of the island.



Labial Labio-
Dental Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ɲ
Plosive voiceless p t ʈ k
voiced b d ɖ ɡ
implosive ɓ ɗ
prenasal ᵐp, ᵐb ⁿd ᶯɖ ᵑɡ
Affricate voiceless ts
voiced dz
prenasal ⁿts, ⁿdz ᶮdʒ
Fricative voiceless f θ s ʃ h
voiced β v ð z ʒ
Rhotic r
Approximant l j w

This language features an unusual contrast between /w, β, v, b, ɓ/.


Front Central Back
High i u
Mid e o
Low a

This is a basic five-vowel system similar to that of languages such as Spanish.


Shimaore was traditionally written with an informal French-based Latin alphabet. On 22 February 2006, the Conseil de la Culture, de l'Éducation et de l'Environnement de Mayotte introduced an official alphabet developed by Association ShiMé that utilizes the basic Latin alphabet without c, q, and x and adds three letters: ɓ, ɗ, and v̄.[5] On 3 March 2020, the Conseil départemental de Mayotte announced the adoption of official orthographies in both Latin and Arabic scripts for Shimaore.[3][6]

Maore Latin Alphabet

Shimaore alphabet
Alifuɓe ya Shimaore
Letter A a B b Ɓ ɓ
D d Ɗ ɗ
E e F f G g H h I i J j K k L l M m N n O o P p R r S s T t U u V v V̄ v̄ W w Y y Z z
IPA Value /a/ /b/ /ɓ/ /d/ /ɗ/ /e/ /f/ /ɡ/ /h/ /i/ /ʒ/ /k/ /l/ /m/ /n/ /o/ /p/ /r/ /s/ /t/ /u/ /v/ /β/ /w/ /j/ /z/
Letter Dh, dh Dj, dj Dr, dr Dz, dz Mb, mb Mp, mp Nd, nd Ndj, ndj Ndr, ndr Ndz, ndz Ng, ng Nts, nts Ny, ny Sh, sh Th, th Tr, tr Ts, ts Tsh, tsh
IPA Value /ð/ /d͡ʒ/ /ɖ/ /d͡z/ /mb/ /mp/ /ⁿd/ /ᶮd͡ʒ/ /ᶯɖ/ /ⁿd͡z/ /ᵑɡ/ /ⁿt͡s/ /ɲ/ /ʃ/ /θ/ /ʈ/ /t͡s/ /t͡ʃ/

Maore Arabic Alphabet

Maore Arabic Alphabet, officially recognized alongside Latin since 2020, consists of 35 letters, of which 27 are from the original Arabic script, and 9 are created for sounds not found in Arabic. However, many of the letters in Maore have a different pronunciation than their Arabic counterpart.

Whereas in Arabic there are 3 vowels, in Maore there are 5. While the common convention in Swahili Ajami orthography has been to use two new diacritics, which are modified varieties of two existing diacritics, in Maore Arabic alphabet, only the 3 original Arabic diacritics are used. Arabic vowels themselves represent vowels [a], [u], and [i].

The vowel [o] is created by adding a waw "و" and a zero-vowel diacritic (sukun) after the consonant.

The vowel [e] is created by adding a ya' "ي" and a zero-vowel diacritic (sukun) after the consonant.

In Maore Arabic Alphabet, (similar to Swahili Ajami Script) stressed syllables are marked, either with alif "ا" (if the vowel of the syllable is [a]), waw "و" (if the vowel of the syllable is [u]), or ya' "ي" (if the vowel of the syllable is [i]). These letters are written with no diacritic, not even zero-vowel diacritic (sukun). (the existence or lack thereof of the zero-vowel diacritic is what distinguishes between [e] and a stressed [i]). This does not apply to stressed syllables containing vowels [o] or [e].

In most cases, the stressed syllable happens to be the one before last.

Whereas in Arabic, the letter ʿayn is used as a pharyngeal consonant, in Maore it has a unique role of being the carrier for nasal vowels. Meaning that with the use of diacritics (and the letter waw "و" and ya' "ي" as needed), nasal vowels are written.

When non-nasal vowels are at the beginning of a word, alif-hamza "أ / إ" is used as a carrier of the appropriate diacritic (followed by the letter waw "و" and ya' "ي" as needed.)

Maore Arabic Alphabet Consonants[3][6]
Letter Latin Equivalent IPA Example Latin spelling Meaning
أ، إ - [ʔ] سُألَ suala question
ب Ɓ ɓ [ɓ] بَهَاتِ ɓahati chance
ٻ ‌B b [b] ٻِيْنْڠَانِ bengani eggplant
پ ‌P p [p] پَارِيْ parè route
ت ‌T t [t] تِبَاكُ tiɓaku tobacco
ث ‌Th th [θ] ثَوَابُ thawaɓu religious/spiritual reward
ج ‌Dj dj [dʒ] جَوَابُ djawabu response, answer
چ ‌J j [ʒ] چِيْچِيْ jeje "How is it going?"
خ Kh kh [χ] خَلِيفَ khalifa successor/ruler
د D d [d] دَامُ damu blood
ذ Dh dh [ð] ذَهَابُ dhahabu gold
ډ Ɗ ɗ [ɗ] ډُوْمُوْ ɗomo lip
ڍ Dy dy [ʄ] أُڍَا udya to eat
ر R r [r] رُوْهُوْ roho heart
ز Z z [z] زُوزِ zuzi day before yesterday
س S s [s] سِمْٻَ simba lion
ش Sh sh [ʃ] شَمْٻَ shamba cultivated land
ص Sw sw [sw] صَلَا swala salah/prayer
ض Dw dw [dw] ضَرُورَ dwarura urgency/emergency
ط Tw tw [tw] طَرِيكَ twarika religious brotherhood
ظ Dhw dhw [ðw] ظَاهِرِ dhwàhiri visible
غ Gh gh
H h
[ɣ] غَالِ hali expensive
ڠ G g [g] ڠَارِ gari car
ف F f [f] فِيجُو fidjo sound
ڤ V v [v] ڤُوَ vua rain
ݡ Bv bv
V̄ v̄
[β] ݡُوْلِيْݡُوْلِيْ Bvolebvole gently/softly
ك K k [k] كَامْبَا kamba lobster
ل L l [l] لِيْوُوْ leo today
م M m [m] مَاتْرَا matrà oil
ن N n [n] نَادْزِي nadzì coconut
ڼ Ny ny [ɲ] ڼَامَ nyama meat
و W w [w] وَاوِيْ wawe you
ه / هـ H h [h] هَازِ hazi work/funtion
ي Y y [j] يِيْزِ yezi power
Maore Arabic Digraphs/Trigraphs[3][6]
Letter Latin Equivalent IPA Example Latin spelling Meaning
تْر Tr tr [tr] تْرَمْبُوْ trambo lie/deceit
تْس Ts ts [ts] تْسِنْڠُوْ tsingo elbow
تْش Tsh tsh [tʃ] تْشُوْرَ tshora spear
دْر Dr dr [dr] دْرَادْرَاكَ dradraka crab
دْز Dz dz [dz] دْزِنْدْزَانُوْ dzindzano yellow
مْٻ Mb mb [ᵐb] مْٻِيَ mbia grain
مْپ Mp mp [ᵐp] مْپِيَ mpia new
نْتْس Nts nts [nts] فَرَنْتْسَا Farantsa France
نْج Ndj ndj [ᶮd͡ʒ] نْجِيْمَ ndjema good/nice
نْد Nd nd [ⁿd] نْدُوْڤُ ndovu elephant
نْدْر Ndr ndr [ᶯɖ] نْدْرَا ndra louse (lice)
نْدْز Ndz ndz [ⁿd͡z] نْدْزَا ndza hunger
نْڠ Ng ng [ᵑɡ] نْڠُوْمَ ngoma drum
نْي Ny ny [ɲ] نْيَامَ nyama meat
Vowel as first sound of word
أَ إِيْـ / إِيْ إِ أُوْ أُ
to defy
Simple Vowels
-a -e -i -o -u
◌َ ◌ِيْـ / ◌ِيْ ◌ِ ◌ُوْ ◌ُ
Simple Vowels in a stressed syllable
-a -e -i -o -u
◌َا ◌ِيْـ / ◌ِيْ ◌ِيـ / ◌ِي ◌ُوْ ◌ُو
Nasal Vowels
Ã -ã Ẽ -ẽ Ĩ -ĩ Õ -õ Ũ -ũ
عَـ / عَ عِيْـ / عِيْ عِـ / عِ عُوْ عُـ / عُ
أَنْـ / أَنْ
◌َانْـ / ◌َانْ
إِيْنْـ / إِيْنْ
◌ِيْنْـ / ◌ِيْنْ
إِنْـ / إِنْ
◌ِنْـ / ◌ِنْ
أُوْنْـ / أُوْنْ
◌ُوْنْـ / ◌ُوْنْ
أُنْـ / أُنْ
◌ُنْـ / ◌ُنْ


Noun classes









zi-mbuzi z-angu z-endr-e ɓazari

CL10.DEF-goat CL10-AGR-my CL10.SM-go-VH.RET market

'My goats went to the market.'







wa-ntru-washe wa-raru wa-ngu

CL2-person-female CL2.AGR-three CL2.AGR-my

'my three wives' (Rombi 1983: 123)


See also


  1. ^ "Comorian, Maore". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2018-08-03.
  2. ^ “Le Conseil Départemental a Tranché, l’alphabet Des Langues Mahoraises Se Fera En Caractères Latins et Arabes.” Mayotte la 1ère, October 15, 2020. [1]. (Archive)
  3. ^ a b c d (Archive)
  4. ^ Jouni Filip Maho, 2009. New Updated Guthrie List Online
  5. ^ Alphabet du Shimaore Archived 2011-07-20 at the Wayback Machine (in French)
  6. ^ a b c (Archive
  7. ^ The Clause Structure Of The Shimaore Dialect Of Comorian (Bantu) by Aimee Johansen Alnet, p. 58

See also